See this post for a brief description of my 500 People challenge.
Slim pickings this week. It’s not so much that I haven’t had casual contact with strangers as that I’ve been preoccupied with other things and not made mental notes. Here’s what I’ve got.
- Sunday 14 June, driving back to Sydney from Brisbane, we stopped at a motel in Port Macquarie. It turned out that when I’d made the booking online I’d left out the final digit of my phone number. Our host made a point of telling us this, because usually she sends a confirming text. She was clearly relieved that together we’d managed to get us booked into the last remaining room with no drama. So were we.
- Monday afternoon, having had a sore throat that was getting progressively worse, I drove to our local COVID–19 testing site, where, unusually, I had to wait – there were two cars ahead of me. A man in PPE came to my window, introduced himself as Doctor ––, and gave me a form and a pen. My impression was he came out just for the human contact.
- Monday, a little later, a woman in mask and PPE came and took the completed form from me. We made polite smalltalk and then she swabbed my inside cheek and my preferred nostril. [The text message advising me of the negative result arrived at half past 6 next morning, and my throat and other symptoms cleared up by the end of Wednesday.]
- Wednesday evening, in the flash new extension of the Marrickville Metro, I went looking in vain for our preferred brand of green curry paste. At the checkout of the Asian supermarket, I asked the woman on checkout how she liked the new shop. Unlike an old pal at checkout elsewhere in the new Behemoth, she didn’t moan about the changed conditions, but said simply, ‘It’s a lot bigger.’
- Thursday midday, the Emerging Artist, granddaughter and I visited Kelly Wallwerk, an artist-friend of the EA who is painting a mural on a water tank beside the oval in Petersham Park. The mural will show a woman in whites bowling, and we had a long chat about the process of creating it. (Photo in the slide show below.)
- Friday, filling prescriptions at the chemist’s, I couldn’t help but notice that the woman behind the counter looked weary. I ventured a comment: ‘You look tired.’ She didn’t hear and asked me to repeat it. When I did, instead of a smiling denial or similarly smiling agreement, she just looked even more weary, and said, ‘Yes.’ When the woman on the second cash register said she’d stay there for a while, my woman said, partly to me, ‘Thank God.’ I didn’t get the impression she was complaining. She was just bone-tired.
- Friday late afternoon, walking beside the water in Blackwattle Bay, we noticed some odd behaviour in a flock of seagulls near retaining wall. The birds would hover just above the water, perhaps even letting their feet go under, then dip their beaks just beneath the surface, all the time flapping vigorously so as not to move forward. Each bird would then fly away in a tight circle and repeat the process. A man was sitting on a bench nearby with a camera on his lap, looking off into the distance. I asked him, ‘Have you seen what the seagulls are doing?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. That’s why I stopped here. We then speculated together about what they might be up to. He thought they were feasting on a school of whitebait, and I couldn’t think of a better explanation.
- Saturday, at breakfast, in Leura where we went for the day, we asked for pepper for our eggs. The waiter brought us the grinder and left it on the table rather than doing the grinding herself and taking it away, which left me in a state of moderate to high alert in case the pepper was needed elsewhere. Sure enough, soon after omelette and poached eggs were delivered to the table nearest to us (a safe 1.5 metres away), the man on that table was trying to catch the waiter’s eye. I held up ‘our’ pepper and asked if it was what he wanted. It was. He was effusively grateful.
- Saturday afternoon, we’d been told there was to be music at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba. We logged in at the Carrington’s courtyard. where there was a great mass of men, women and children in yellow, many of them sporting elaborate yellow floral headgear and other ornaments, many looking as if they meant business with drums, and all seeming remarkably cheerful in the face of the bitter wind that swept through the space. I stopped a young man, who had a delicate yellow chain attached to an earring, and asked him what was going on. He was only too happy to explain that Katoomba’s celebration of the solstice, which usually takes over the whole town for the weekend closest to the actual date, had been Covid-cancelled, but some community groups had decided to put on a show anyhow, and the Carrington had made the space available. What we were seeing was the group Hands Heart Feet, who were second on the program. [Not strictly part of this narrative, but they were fabulous, as were the belly dancers who opened the show.]
Running total is now 170.